Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sir Nigel: Review

Set in the middle of the 14th century, Sir Nigel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is what these days is known as a prequel to The White Company. Written fifteen years later, it tells the story of how Nigel Loring, the near-destitute squire of the Manor of Tilford, went off to seek his fortune and win the hand of his lady-love in the early years of the Hundred Years War. Nigel leaves home a squire and returns home as an honorable knight through many brave adventures on the battlefield and abroad. Nigel is equally brave on land or sea. We see Nigel as he tames a horse that no other man can ride, as he battles a French spy aboard a ship headed across the channel, as he beards a feared robber lord in his den, and as he even faces the King of France.

Maybe it was the difference in the edition....Sir Nigel is a standard Wordsworth Classic edition and The White Company was a much earlier edition with very juvenile illustrations....but this novel didn't strike me so much as a Boy's Own Version of History as The White Company did. It is still full of high romance and tales of derring-do, but I took it much more seriously and enjoyed it more. There is still much of the Don Quixote about Nigel, but there is an innocent seriousness to him. I particularly enjoyed the episode where Nigel leads the way in secretly entering the robber lord's castle. A very well-told tale in Doyle's exemplary prose. Four stars.

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